As the hot summer heat starts to fade and the relief of fall starts to settle in, residents of Dundas and Northfield start preparing their homes and yards for the wintertime. For many, that leads to the question of whether they should cover their outdoor air conditioner for the winter.

While it may seem like a great idea, the reality is there are several reasons why you shouldn’t cover your AC unit in the winter. Along with not being needed, covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment can sometimes cause problems.

Here, the experts at Better Air share five reasons why covering your air conditioner doesn’t need to be on your fall to-do list and what you should do instead.

1. Your AC Unit Isn’t Damaged by Snow

Exterior AC units are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions like snow in the winter. These systems are built with solid materials and components that can handle the outdoor elements without damage. The coils and fins of the unit are engineered to resist corrosion, and the housing is manufactured to protect the internal elements from moisture and debris.

2. Covered AC Systems may Encourage Mold Growth

One of the reasons you should avoid covering your outdoor air conditioning equipment in the wintertime is because doing so can trap moisture—which is not at all what you want in your outdoor unit. That’s because trapping moisture inside the unit creates the perfect conditions for mold and mildew to spread.

Mold and mildew not only have an undesirable aroma, but they can also present health risks, especially for people with respiratory issues or allergies. Plus, the unwanted moisture can corrode the internal components of the AC unit.

Instead of covering the unit, instead provide proper drainage and keep the area around the unit clear of debris, allowing for efficient airflow and preventing moisture buildup.

3. Covered AC Systems Can Attract Animals

You and your family aren’t the only ones who get ready for winter. Animals that live around your home are also hunting for a warm, cozy place to live for the cold months. For many creatures, a covered air conditioner is the perfect winter home.

Birds, mice, chipmunks and even rats commonly make winter dens inside covered air conditioners. Animals living in a covered air conditioning unit can cause numerous problems. Rats can chew through wires, insulation and other components, causing damage that may require pricey repairs. Debris animals bring into the AC to construct a warm and comfortable nest can block airflow and ventilation, limiting the efficiency of the unit and potentially causing it to overheat. Moreover, animal waste can result in unsanitary conditions and foul odors.

Leaving your air conditioner uncovered helps deter animals, because an uncovered AC offers less shelter from the elements than a covered unit. That’s better for your AC—and leaves you with less mess to clean up and things to repair once the snow melts.

4. Covering Your Air Conditioner Restricts Airflow

Another reason it’s better that you don’t cover your AC unit in the winter is because a cover blocks airflow through the unit. Suitable airflow is crucial for the AC system because it facilitates heat exchange and allows the unit to cool efficiently. When airflow is severely limited, the system has to work harder to achieve the desired temperature, leading to additional energy consumption and strain on the components.

In addition, if you turn on your air conditioner without noticing that the exterior unit is covered or because you simply forgot, it could result in a range of problems. One issue is that the shortage of appropriate airflow could cause the compressor to overheat, causing its failure or damage.  That’s why it is crucial to ensure the outdoor unit is always cleared of any blockages and is not covered to maintain optimal airflow.

5. AC Maintenance Is More Effective Than Covering Your Air Conditioner

The bottom line is, it’s much more effective to do a little maintenance for your air conditioning unit than to cover your outdoor AC unit.

There are a number of key maintenance activities you should prioritize to ensure optimal function and longevity of your AC unit. First, it’s wise to look at your outdoor AC unit regularly and pull out any debris such as leaves, small branches and dirt to allow proper airflow. Second, examine and clean the coils, fins and filters to make sure they are free from dirt and dust buildup that would hinder efficient heat exchange or airflow.

Routine air conditioning maintenance not only improves efficiency, but it also helps extend the unit’s life span, decreases energy consumption and protects against costly repairs. Rather than using a cover, committing time and effort into routine air conditioning maintenance is a proactive strategy that can substantially benefit your entire HVAC system in the long run.